Carlos Ruiz Zafón is without any doubt one of the leading contemporary European writers. His first novel The Shadow of the Wind ranks high somewhere on my all time Top 10 list and is simply a masterpiece. That novel was sold more than 15 million times worldwide, making it one of the best-selling books of all time. The second novel of the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books“ cycle is called The Angel’s Game and undoubtedly another great novel.
Therefore it was a no-brainer for me to buy the third novel of the cycle “The Prisoner of Heaven” at once I saw it in a bookstore during my vacation in Taiwan. That novel was first published in English in July 2012.
Even if the backcover states you can read all three novels of the cycle independently from each other, I’d recommend reading them altogether. Characters and plots in all three novels are linked and there are many déjà-vu moments from the first two novels when you read The Prisoner of Heaven. Sadly this is also one of the main setbacks of the book.
All three novels take place in Barcelona and the surrounding areas. The first two novels are set in pre-revolutionary Spain and cover the Civil War period in a very detailed and realistic fashion. You can virtually walk through modern day Barcelona and still find many places mentioned in the books. One part of The Prisoner of Heaven takes place in 1940 after the Civil War ended, when imprisoned Davíd Martín wrote The Angel’s Game. These events are described as a kind of flashback by the main characters of The Prisoner of Heaven approximately 20 years later. They uncover some of the secrets from the first two novels and link some plots.
Anyway the Prisoner of Heaven is a decent book to read, but somehow I have the feeling Zafón (was) rushed to publish it. It lacks the depth of the first two novels by quite a bit and is much more shallow. Thankfully I knew the characters from before, but otherwise I’d described them as watered down. The very same goes for the story itself: Nice to read, but definitely lacking the tension and variety of the two other novels. The Shadow of the Wind and the Angel’s Game both had over 500 pages, while the The Prisoner of Heaven merely reaches over 250. In other words the first two novels were more than twice as dense as the third one.
I agree with people who say that The Prisoner of Heaven functions just as a bridge to the last novel of the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” cycle – or to make quick money while the author is very popular? The ending of the novel somehow supports this theory. “(…), knowing that the story, his story, had not ended. It has only just begun.”
By no means a bad book, but nowhere near the masterpieces Zafón wrote before.
Bought at Eslite, Taipei – 12/2012 – NT$ 410 (~ € 10,00)